A Funny Connection

From Paul Bell

Within this medically focused blog there are many excellent ideas on how to improve your health and sense of well being. However, one of the easiest and most effective benefits to health that is often overlooked is laughter. Oh yes, from a smile through a chuckle to a gasping belly-tensing burst, laughter has some very beneficial effects on both your mind and body. Humor is part of being human and a measure of mental health.

Laughing releases endorphins in the brain giving mild euphoria, it stimulates the production of serotonin, it has an anti-inflammatory effect protecting blood vessels and heart muscles, it can boost the immune system and reduce stress. It can improve relationships and create a sense of togetherness among groups. Laughter’s clearly contagious powers, which are the most contagious of all of our emotional experiences, can improve the lives of the whole group sharing the humor even if some of them are not even sure why they are laughing. Laughter can give us a more relaxed, positive and joyful perspective on life. It can even help us think more creatively, especially when taking yourself too seriously is the problem that is blocking creativity.

The ability to see the humor in even very serious situations can beneficially change the perspective on the challenge. If you can laugh at something you can usually deal with it, since laughter can diffuse fear and anger. Even small humorous signals can make a positive difference. For the last few months, I have been wearing a Winnie The Poo mask due to Covid and this mask burden has created many smiles. However, many people will argue that some things are too serious for humor, but that is only their way of viewing the situation, not the situation itself. Mirth can lighten the heaviest of loads.

So, if laughter is so beneficial why do adults laugh just 17 times per day on average, but a young child can laugh over 200 times per day? Naturally, with age we are not as surprised by – or gleeful at – the daily events as children are, but many of us are afraid to laugh, especially at ourselves. We have an image that we want to project to others, and we are concerned that others may lose respect. But where is the authenticity in appearing faultless without vulnerabilities or limitations? The fact is that people feel that those who can laugh at themselves have insight and a sense of self-acceptance. Disclosing personally embarrassing but humorous events, or admitting to weaknesses, can reduce tension for the speaker and the listener. Laughing at yourself reminds you of your humanity and can certainly help you to become a more cheerful character. A cheerful individual is a bonus to any situation, team or relationship. Look carefully and you may observe as Michel de Montaigne did that “The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness”. A wise person knows how to enjoy life’s journey.

Some of us may feel that we just do not have a sense of humor. That we have to be cynical, grumpy or annoyed to deal with this serious world. But after reading of all the benefits above you may wish to laugh more often. You may wish to see it as a chance to spread joy rather than trying to be funny. Most laughter does not come from jokes but from sharing times with friends and family. If you wish to be intentional about your humor, treat it as you would regular physical exercise – spend more time with fun playful people including young children, smile at people and it will often be returned, keep the incessant grumpy news media in a tight compartment and remember it may contain plenty of absurdities to laugh at. Think or talk about times when you took yourself too seriously. Choose laughter over the serious, sensible expected behavior. And if you want something to laugh at after reading this article, look at my portrait at the bottom of this page, particularly at what my wife calls my “happy hair”!

Paul Bell lives a life of both physical and mental adventures. He is passionate about education and has enjoyed teaching and challenging children in the outdoors, and helping large project and company teams raise their performance levels. He currently lives and adventures in the Canadian Rockies, sails the Pacific coast and finds life very exciting.